The Maura Murray case is another case of a college aged girl who disappeared under mysterious circumstances. She disappeared in 2004. Like the Elisa Lam case there are people who have become obsessed by it but this more than a what happened that night question, but rather a longer mystery that ended up with a disappearance. The armchair investigators have become so obcessed that one, James Renner, has written a book about how it consumed him entitled True Crime Addict: How I Lost Myself In The Mysterious Disappearance of Maura Murray. It is on my to read list and when done will be a Tuesday Thoughts book. Many of the armchair investigators are adamant that their theory is the right one and much in-fighting is done that just undermines the goal of finding Maura IMHO. But today let’s just look at Maura and her disappearance not the effects it’s had others even years later.
Maura Murray was an athletic intelligent girl. She first followed in her father and sister’s footsteps to attend West Point. While there she met her boyfriend. Unfortunately, she stole some make-up from the store and was kicked out of West Point. From there she decided she wanted to go into nursing and began attending University of Massachusetts Amherst. I bring up the issue of her dismissal from West Point as some feel it was the start of a downward trend for Maura. Others feel it wasn’t such an important issue. As I said there is a lot of in-fighting about the case. I put it here as I see it as a departure from the typical college career. Most people are not kicked out from a college for shop-lifting and it is the first documented event I’ve found that is at odds with the description of her from those who knew her.
In November 2003 Maura has a brush with criminal activity again when she admitted after being questioned by police that she fraudulently used her roommate’s credit card to buy pizzas and other food items. The case was to be dismissed after three months of good behavior. It has been a puzzle as to why she did this. She had sufficient funds to purchase the items.
We are now to 2004. Maura is on the swim team at Massachusetts she has had an affair with her married swim instructor. She is working a campus security job on February 5th and is talking on the phone with her sister about issues in her relationship with her boyfriend. One would image it was complicated given the affair with the swim coach. That night her supervisor found Maura crying staring into space zoned out with a nursing book opened in front of her. When the supervisor talked to her Maura didn’t respond then became hysterical reportedly saying “my sister.” Seeing Maura was unfit for work and concerned for the girl the supervisor got coverage for the position and walked the girl to her dorm about 1:20am. Maura never explained any more about the phone call or the reason for her break down.
I want to mention here that same night of February 5th another student at Amherst, Petrit Vasi, was struck by a car on campus in a hit and run. He was very badly injured and found by police. He was comatose for over a month but did recover after a long road of surgeries and physical therapy. We’ll hold off on how some thinks this fits until the theories suggestion.
On Saturday February 7th Maura’s father came to visit and got a hotel room. I would imagine he’s not thrilled with her being on probation for the credit card fraud. In interviews he comes across as a very stern by the book man. He said he was there to help Maura shop for a more reliable car. He had dinner with Maura and her friend then they dropped him off at his hotel about 10:00 and went to a party. Maura left the party about 2:30 am on what was not the 9th. On the way home she struck a guard rail. The police responded but no record of sobriety tests were made. Her father’s car was towed and she was taken by police to her father’s hotel where she stayed. At 3:40am she called her boyfriend using her father’s cell phone.
That morning she told her father about accident. It was determined that approximately $10,000 of damage was done to the car but the insurance would cover it. He got a rental car and began his trip home to Connecticut. About 11pm that night he called to remind Maura to get the accident report from the police for insurance purposes. She agreed and they would talk the next evening to fill out insurance forms with information from the reports.
Now we are into Monday February 9 the day of her disappearance. At midnight, which would be just shortly after talking to her father, Maura used her computer to get directions to the Berkshires and to Burlington, Vermont. She then called a condo in the area where her family had stayed before to make reservations but did not get them. She emailed her boyfriend she’d gotten his message didn’t feel like talking and would call him later in the day about the same time she was on the phone. She then made a short call to another nursing student. Then she called her professors and supervisor and told them she would be out of town for a week due to a death in the family. Then she called a reservation line for Stowe, Vermont. After this she called her boyfriend getting voice mail she said she would try again later. It was now about 2:30am. She packed travel bags loading them into her care. At this time she possibly packed up her dorm room things into boxes. It is not sure just when she did that but on top of one of the boxes was a print out of an email exchange with her boyfriend indicating troubles in their relationship. About 4pm that day she took out $280 from her account at an ATM. Then she bought $40 of alcohol. Surveillance footage of these transactions shows she was alone. She then left on I-91 north as shown by her phone when she checked voicemail. This was the last use of her phone.
About 7pm that day on Route 112 in Woodsville, New Hampshire a woman heard a car crash near her home. The she looked out to see a car facing the west in the snow bank on the eastbound lane and called to report the accident. A neighbor, a school bus drive who had just returned home, went out to see if he could help. He found Maura there shivering outside her car. He offered help she refused saying she had already called Triple A. He found this odd as he knew there was no cell phone coverage in the area. He told her he’d call the police to help her thinking she feared him and was trying to make it look like people were coming. He backed away and went to his house. While he was on the phone with the 911 operator he couldn’t see the car but did note a few cars go past the site.
The police arrive 16 minutes after the first phone call, three minutes after the bus driver’s call. They find no one at the scene. The car’s radiator was shoved up into the motor upon striking the icy snow bank. Inside the car they find an empty beer, open wine box which appeared to have spilled into the snow outside, Maura’s Triple A card was out in the seat, the accident reports from her Sunday accident were out, the book Without Peril, along with driving directions to Stowe, Vermont were on the seats. The various packed items such as clothing, jewelry, toiletries, and her favorite stuffed animal were also in the car. They did not find her ATM card, any of her credit cards, nor her cell phone. Those items have never been found. The bus-driver and first responding officers began looking for her. The EMS and firetrucks arrived and assisting in the search but nothing was found. By 9:30 the car was towed to the tow truck driver’s house, as it was late he took it there and then to the garage the next morning. He found that a rag was shoved up the tailpipe. It was later determined that this rag was part of Maura’s roadside emergency kit her father had put together and made her carry as her car was unreliable. (remember his trip was to help her shop for a more reliable one). Authorities at this point refer to Maura as missing.
A building contractor returning home from work reports about 8pm he saw a young person in jeans, dark coat, and light colored hoodie walking down the road about 5 miles east on Route 112 of the accident site the night Maura disappeared. It has never been determined if this was Maura or not.
A BOLO (be on the look out) was issued for Maura and her family was notified February 10th. Maura’s glove was found by police dogs about 500 yards east from the site. The scent stopped there suggesting Maura got in the car with someone. Which does seem odd given her reaction to the bus driver’s offer of assistance.
Her father and boyfriend responded quickly arriving February 11th. During his flight there the boyfriend had his phone off when he turned it on he got a voice message from during the flight that sounded like Maura sobbing. The call was traced to a card issued to the Red Cross. The father and the boyfriend have a press conference that night asking for anyone who might have clues to come forward.
Searches were put together, tracking and cadaver dogs were brought in to assist. The searches turned up nothing new. The police theorized she was going north to either runaway or commit suicide. The police also stated at this time Maura was drunk when the accident happened despite the bus driver stating she did not appear so. The family strongly disagreed with the theory and statement. Searches continued and the FBI became involved. They brought in various search imaging from helicopters, more dogs of both types, and went over the car. They also made the search a national search putting Maura’s photo out in a BOLO. Nothing was found relating to Maura. At the beginning of March all items were returned to the family. The family went home but the father came back every weekend looking for his daughter until complaints about his trespassing on various properties came to the police and they asked him to stop.
Another disappearance happened a month later but was dismissed by the local police. After pressure from family and media the local police, still in charged of the case, requested Maura’s things from the family for forensic testing. The local police denied the cases were linked or any possibility of a serial killer. They insisted it is a missing person case not a criminal one.
Over the years the father has continued to call attention to the case and done all he could to put pressure on the authorities. The State Attorney general ordered the case be handled as a criminal case. Searches in 2008 of an A frame house near the site gave a clue when cadaver dogs alerted on a closet. The carpet was removed for analysis but the results were never released. As of the 13th anniversary in 2017 the State Attorney general has stated there have been no new leads and no confirmed sightings of Maura since that night.
So what happened to Maura Murray? The blatant answer is no one knows but theories abound. There are so many things that could contribute to her case that armchair detectives have dug deep into them all. As a result there are so many I won’t even try to cover them all here. Some think the father did something. Others think she ran away. Yet some think kidnapping and murder. Honestly given the facts it could have been any of these, a combination of them, or something else. We just don’t know.
The small local police department did the best they could but they messed up a few things. First letting the tow truck driver take the car home instead of impounding it as evidence then going over it for clues of possible foul play. Second by returning the things to the family then asking for them back, honestly with all that handling contamination I can’t see much being of use. You can put the genie back in the bottle so to speak. Thirdly for not at least running the theory the two disappearances of the young women as being related.
There are so many odd things about the case. Why the rag in the tail pipe? What caused Maura to break down at work that night? Why did she say there was a death in the family and go away?
Something was going on with Maura. She had many issues that were going against the personality most people knew – shoplifting, credit card fraud, affair with a married coach, lying to teachers about death, the two car wrecks. I personally wonder if a mental illness was surfacing and was going untreated. Early 20s are sadly when many very serious mental illnesses surface could this be a possibility?
Some have suggested that Maura was the driver in the hit and run the night she broke down at work. That this is the reason for the break down. With the probation from the credit card fraud she knew she’d be facing big trouble if that was found out. She turned to alcohol and partying to suppress these fears. Then adding to this is her personal life with the affair and boyfriend issues over the long distance relationship. This led to the accident with her father’s car. I’m sure he wasn’t fun about her being on probation then wrecking his car. It might be the straw that broke her; the probation, then hit and run, then father’s car this theory goes was enough to make her want to run away. So she lied to her professors and boss, packed up her things and headed north possibly to figure out what to do next. While driving she was drinking, wrecked and now more was added to her problems so she just ditched everything there, hitchhiked off into a new life or her own death, possibly in the A frame house. At this point it’s all theories. That’s what obsesses people.
For me I think Maura was disturbed and was showing signs of something going on long before she hit the snow bank. I think she was running blind from her problems and only met more. I don’t know what happened but after all this time I lean toward the idea she is dead. It could be from exposure somewhere in the snowy wilderness or it could be from foul play. I feel for the family and those who cared for Maura I think not having answers would be the worst. Sadly at this point that is where everyone is – no answers as to what happened except for an all-consuming mystery.